Context-specific leadership preferences in faces: influences of economic outlook and gender-bias
In the absence of political knowledge, voters tend to use facial cues to judge a candidate’s leadership ability. Although some traits are generally valued in leadership, previous literature shows that preference for the type of facial masculinity associated with perceived dominance or trustworthiness is often differently prioritised depending on the situational contexts. In order to investigate context-specific leadership prototypes, past research studies mostly focused on the use of war and peacetime scenarios. This experiment aims to expand on the current knowledge in the area of facial leadership preferences and test whether economic outlook influences preference for masculine facial characteristics in a leadership context using a hypothetical voting scenario. It was hypothesized that the preference for facial masculinity will vary in economic outlook (neutral, economic stability, economic uncertainty. Although participants displayed a higher preference for facial masculinity in the neutral condition, the statistical analysis showed that the association of the economic outlook and facial masculinity preferences was only significant for hypothetical male leaders. The findings suggest that the perceived gender of the leader produces variance in social attributions associated with the economic outlook.